Photographed by Satomi Yamauchi
It was kismet that finally led us to meet artist Mayumi Yamase in Tokyo. Having discovered that we live in the same neighborhood and share mutual friends (including the Man/Woman team, for whom she designed artwork for, and Paddlers Coffee and Bullpen’s Daisuke Matsushima), we finally connected IRL over coffee in Aoyama. Here, get to know the whimsically abstract world of Mayumi Yamase, a name to remember in Tokyo’s contemporary art scene.
Tell us how you started painting.
I used to live in the States until I was 6 years old, moved back to Japan, and I went to college in London. I think I started really getting into it at the end of high school. I had a teacher who went to Chelsea, the same college I attended, and she taught me about painting that wasn’t the usual Japanese way. Japanese painting is so academic. Before you go to college, before you get into an interview, you have to attend drawing classes for a few years, start from scratch. I think she knew I wasn’t that kind of person so she told me that maybe London can be an option. The way she taught her classes was so different so that’s when I started really getting into it.
“I think I’m quite emotional and getting more and more so… I don’t consider my paintings as feminist but why not, I’m kind of coming up to the point where I can make a statement but in a fun way, my way.”
How would you describe the style of your art?
I think I’m quite emotional and getting more and more so. When I first started painting with a canvas, I used to start from scratch – drawing first, and taking a little bit more time.
If you see my recent ones in the last exhibition I did with friends who are all creative as well and went to art colleges – we have so many different styles. One artist staged a performance, the other did a film…We’re all really good friends since high school and we did a show all together last September in Tokyo. Because we were all girls that were showing, I just wanted to do a little bit more, not feminist [per se], but kind of started thinking about the role we had [in society]. I don’t consider my paintings as feminist but why not, I’m kind of coming up to the point where I can make a statement but in a fun way, my way, so I just did the uterus as a symbol.
“I went to a temple with a thousand steps to get inside. Those were things I’ve never really seen that inspire me. I also love meeting new people so that always brings me energy. When I meet someone like you today, I’ll do a painting and just get an impression of you.”
Any ongoing or upcoming projects we should know about?
For Comme des Garcons, this is the second project I’m doing with them. I did shoes for menswear two years ago. This year, I did bags. At the end of this month, I will do more with them. I work with Rei Kawakubo san – she checks everything!
How do you get inspiration for your work?
In Japan, traveling is the main thing. I travel in the countryside, to places I have never been. I went to a temple with a thousand steps to get inside. Those were things I’ve never really seen that inspire me. I also love meeting new people so that always brings me energy. When I meet someone like you today, I’ll do a painting and just get an impression of you.